Saturday, March 24, 2018

Gaming Ads: Interplay

Interplay Productions was founded in 1983 by Brian Fargo. The California-based developer quickly made a name for itself in 1985 with the release of the role-playing game (RPG) Tales of the Unknown: Volume I -- The Bard's Tale. Electronic Arts (EA) published The Bard's Tale, as well as The Bard's Tale II (1986) and The Bard's Tale III (1988). Another one of Interplay's well known RPGs published by EA in 1988 is one of my favorite games of all time, the post-apocalyptic Wasteland. Interplay would also begin self-publishing its own games in 1988 and by the mid-'90s was publishing games from other developers as the company became a significant publisher in the industry.

Although best known for its PC games, during the '90s it published many of its games for consoles too, including Earthworm Jim titles, a variety of Star Trek games, and the Clay Fighter series (based on the number of ads I came across I'd say it put a lot of money into marketing this one). It also published Blizzard Entertainment's (then known as Silicon & Synapse) first games and got into sports game development like so many publishers did in the '90s, and released them under a label known as VR Sports (later renamed Interplay Sports). However, computer RPGs were still a major part of Interplay's library and in 1997 it released Fallout, the spiritual successor to Wasteland (EA owned the rights to a Wasteland 2). In 1998 it had another huge hit on its hands when it published the Bioware-developed Baldur's Gate. Following Baldur's Gate, Interplay's internal division Black Isle Studios developed two more Advanced Dungeons & Dragons games, Planescape: Torment and Icewind Dale.

Despite having developed and published numerous successful games, Interplay was struggling financially in 1998 and the company went public, at which time it also changed its name from Interplay Productions to Interplay Entertainment. Although a version of Interplay still exists today, this was essentially the beginning of the end for the company that released more than 300 games in a 20 year span. Titus Software purchased controlling interest in Interplay by 2001 and Brian Fargo eventually left Interplay to found inXile Entertainment (Fargo got the rights to Wasteland back and released an official sequel in 2014). In 2005 Titus Software ended up going into bankruptcy and while Interplay retained rights to most of its assets, it also faced backruptcy in 2006 leading to a deal with Bethesda Softworks to use the Fallout license. That Fallout deal had a clause in it that Interplay ultimately failed to live up to. Bethesda sued Interplay in 2009 and after going to court acquired the complete rights to Fallout.

Today, what remains of Interplay primarily publishes digital versions of its back catalog for modern computers.

Flickr album: Interplay

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